A month and six days ago
the Phillies played their last game of the season. Brett Myers went six
innings and held the Marlins to two runs on four hits, but the Phillies fell
3-2 on Jason Wood's infield single off of Fabio Castro in the bottom of the
11th . A lot has been said about the 2007 Phillies since then but little
Offensively, at the end of the 2006 season the Phils had more positions where they had openings than positions where they didn't. First, second and short are pretty much nailed down but the other five positions were mostly filled with question marks. About a month later, a few things have gotten clearer, but a lot is still up in the air with things likely to heat up this month after the deadline for free agents to file passes on November 11. General managers' meetings start on November 13 in Naples, Florida.
Center field is the one place where it looks like we do have more clarity. Aaron Rowand declined his portion of the mutual option and the Phillies did the same, but it seems the Phils are likely to bring back Rowand to play center in 2007.
The trade of Bobby Abreu and the expected loss of David Dellucci leaves the Phillies with a big hole in right that Shane Victorino and Jeff Conine are candidates to fill. If some combination of those two were to man right field in '07, fans would be in for a shock in terms of the offensive production that would be lost compared to last year when the big sticks of Abreu and Dellucci did significant damage for the Phils. Either Conine or Victorino would be a below average offensive player as a right fielder next season. Gary Sheffield has been bandied about as a possibility, but it seems unlikely. Some of us hold out hope that the Phillies and Dellucci will still work it out and bring him back.
Left field still belongs to Pat Burrell despite the endless discussion of Alfonso Soriano.
At third base we've heard rumors of bats big and little, but the Phillies still have a huge problem there.
At catcher lots of people have been saying that the Phils may go with a combination of Ruiz and Coste, but not many of them work for the Phillies.
On the pitching side, the Phillies ended '06 with three starters that were likely to return for next season, Brett Myers, Cole Hamels and Jon Lieber. Jamie Moyer was re-signed, giving the Phils a fourth man in their rotation. They still need a fifth and, given the lack of depth they have organizationally at starting pitcher, perhaps another guy who can start and work as a long man out of the pen.
In the pen the Phils seemingly need someone who can pitch the eighth inning and backup Flash. The names are flying fast and furious, but I would guess the Phillies had the same four guys pencilled in for their pen on October 2 as they do today: Gordon, Geary, Madson and Matt Smith.
Clearly a lot of what has been said around baseball since the end of the regular season is posturing. But if the areas above are the ones that the Phillies will be focusing on in months ahead, where should the priorities be? The curious thing is that while almost all of the talk over the past few weeks has been about hitting, but the biggest move the Phillies have made was about pitching -- bringing back Jamie Moyer. The developments with Rowand are significant, but nothing has been finalized.
Here's where I'm hoping the priorities will be once this heats up: #5 starter, third base, setup man, long reliever/5A starter, right field, catcher. I don't think the Phillies have a problem in left. I'm going to be surprised if the Phillies bring in a big, expensive bat anywhere, especially one with a long contract. The priority has to be pitching and I think it will be. Despite all the talk, you can argue that is has been so far.
I have added a page where I will track my best guess as to who will be part of the 2007 Phillies.
Ryan Howard is still going nuts in Japan. The team of MLB All-Stars topped the NPB All-Stars for the fourth time in four games early this morning, winning 7-2. The game was tied 2-2 going into the top of the eighth when Howard homered with one out to put the MLB players up 3-2. The MLB team would go on to score four more times that inning to turn the score lopsided in a game that was close till the end. Howard was 1-for-4 with his fourth home run of the series. He's hitting .571. Utley was 1-for-3 with a walk, a single and an RBI. With lefty Kei Igawa on the bump for the Japanese team, Utley batted eighth. Chase is hitting .333 in the series but made his second error of the series in Game 4. Chris Young got the start for the MLB team and allowed a hit and two walks in 3 2/3 scoreless innings.
Big Catci 6, Grand Canyon Rafters 5 in the Arizona Fall League as the Sarguaros improve to 11-12 on the year. Kyle Kendrick had a nice outing, allowing a hit and a walk in two scoreless innings. Kendrick has been hit hard in the AFL however, he has allowed 15 hits in 8 1/3 innings over five appearances and thrown to a 8.64 ERA. Jason Jaramillo was 3-for-5 with a double. Jaramillo is hitting 340/417/540 after 50 at-bats. Eight of his 17 hits have gone for extra-bases, seven doubles and a home run.
How bout a nice Morgan Ensberg deal? An article here talks about the Astros pontifications about bringing him back at around $5 million. Maybe nobody has alerted him to the fact that he hit .235 last year and if they just did he would be shamed into coming and playing for the Phillies for free. Ensberg got just 387 at-bats last year but walked 101 times and hit 23 home runs. He finished the year with a 235/396/463 line.
People in Houston keep talking about Randy Wolf. They're obsessed.
A joke here about defensive problems that Mark DeRosa had while in Atlanta. Sorry to be slow, but I don't get it.
SI.com has a list from late yesterday of the players who have filed for free agency.
Teams have until
to post bids for the rights to negotiate a contract with third baseman Akinori Iwamura.
The Nationals signed Joe Thurston, and about a bazillion other people, to a minor league contract. It makes it less likely he'll be pinch-hitting for Pat Burrell again next season.